New York Congressman Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, hosted a teleconference for health care professionals yesterday who addressed the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines, and discussed precautions schools, offices and individuals should take to prevent exposure of the virus.
Since manufacturers of the seasonal flu vaccine are now also producing the H1N1 flu vaccine, supply for the seasonal flu vaccine may not be readily available. However, health professionals are confident anyone who chooses to be immunized this year for H1N1 will be able to do so.
Acting Regional Director for the U.S. Health and Human Services Dennis Gonzalez announced federal efforts to protect Americans from the flu.
"From the onset of the outbreak back in April, we have [developed] four goals," Gonzalez said during the teleconference. "One is make sure that we get antiviral medicines out to all states for those who unfortunately come down with the virus; two is to keep the public informed and understand how they can protect themselves and their families; three is to develop a vaccine and now we are in the [distribution stage]."
The HHS purchased $2 million of vaccinations this year, according to Gonzalez. Since Nov. 2 of this year, more than 30 million doses have been allocated through the U.S. THe H1N1 vaccine is shipped as it becomes available and is expected that there will be enough H1N1 flu vaccines.
According to Gonzalez, the federal government has obtained 250 million doses of this year's H1N1 flu vaccine. This amount is based off the National Institute of Health clinic trial data that showed children six months to nine years old will require two doses, and individuals 10 years or old will require one dose.
Dr. Debra Blog, director of the Bureau of Immunization for the state Department of Health, said the federal government is providing the H1N1 vaccine at no cost for the actual injection or for the supplies necessary to receive the vaccination.
The demand for the seasonal flu vaccine has been dramatic and may not be available to individuals in the near future, and "more can't be produced because the same producers are making H1N1 vaccine," Blog added.
"We know that the amount that's being produced [for the seasonal flu vaccine] is about the same that was distributed and used last season," said Blog. "Therefore, if there is increased demand, we know there will not be enough for everybody to get a vaccine. What came out early was used."
Vaccine safety has been an issue for many forthcoming individuals wary of potential side effects the immunization may have, but Blog assured the vaccine is safe since it is created the same the seasonal flu vaccine is, also has a very similar safety profile. There have been no recent studies showing unusual results after the vaccination is administered, Blog said.
Dr. Douglas Ball, director of Public Health Emergency Epidemiology Program for the state DOH, said they are providing guidance for parents and students from kindergarten through grade 12 by community mitigation and non-pharmaceutical intervention.
"Having students and staff stay home, separating ill students and staff, emphasizing importance of hand hygiene and routine cleaning... are the only school dismissals we've recommended for public health assistance," said Ball.
Minimizing exposure to the virus is the most important method, according to Dr. Eileen Franko, director of the Bureau of Occupational Health for the state DOH.
"What we really want to do is minimize exposure of everyone [who is sick] to other people," Franko said. "If you're sick, you have to stay home and not come to work. The first thing you want to do is eliminate the source of exposure."
More information and statistical facts about seasonal flu and H1N1 flu vaccines, click here for federal government info and here for New York info.